By Morgan Erickson-Davis
4 March 2016
(mongabay.com) – The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has one of the world’s biggest remaining tracts of rainforest (second only to the Amazon in size), home to unique and threatened species like okapis and bonobos. In effort to protect its forests, the DRC implemented a moratorium in 2002 that prohibited the granting of industrial logging licenses. But earlier this week, the DRC government announced that it is considering ending the moratorium and reopening its rainforest to new logging companies.
The news has drawn the ire of environmental groups at home and abroad, who say that ending the ban on new logging licenses would fly in the face of internationally financed forest protection reforms in the Central African country. Currently, multiple EU countries are considering whether not to support a billion-dollar, DRC-proposed plan to conserve 1.55 million square kilometers of Congo Basin rainforest – an area the size of Mongolia.
“At a time when the global community is working together to protect the world’s last rainforests, a vital defense against climate change, the DRC government seems to be undermining the commitment to reducing emissions that it presented [at December’s Paris climate summit],” said Lars Løvold of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Congo Basin rainforest covers the northern half of the DRC, much of it still existing as Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) – an official term for tracts of primary forest that are big and undisturbed enough to retain their original levels of biodiversity. In their depths live species found nowhere else, like the endangered okapi (Okapia johnstoni) and bonobo (Pan paniscus), and the critically endangered Dryas monkey (Cercopithecus dryas). Around 40 million people depend on the DRC’s forests for food, fuel, water, and other needs. [more]